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wrote in an early period of society; both are origin. als; both are distinguished by simplicity, sublimity, and fire. The correct elegances of Virgil, his artful imitation of Homer, the Roman stateliness which he everywhere maintains, admit no parallel with the ab. rupt boldness and enthusiastic warmth of the Celtic bard. In one article, indeed, there is a resemblance. Virgil is more tender than Homer, and thereby agrees more with Ossian; with this difference, that the feelings of the one are more gentle and polished—those of the other more strong : the tenderness of Virgil softens—that of Ossian dissolves and overcomes the heart.
A resemblance may be sometimes observed between Ossian's comparisons and those employed by the sacred writers. They abound much in this figure, and they use it with the utmost propriety. The imagery of Scripture exhibits a soil and climate altogether dif. ferent from those of Ossian: a warmer country, a more smiling face of nature, the arts of agriculture and of rural life much farther advanced. The wine-press and the threshing-floor are often presented to us; the cedar and the palm-tree, the fragrance of perfumes the voice of the turtle, and the beds of lilies. The similes are, like Ossian's, generally short, touching on one point of resemblance, rather than spread out into little episodes. In the following example may be perceived what inexpressible grandeur poetry receives from the intervention of the Deity. “The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters; but God shall rebuke them, and they shall fly far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like the down of the thistle before the whirl. wind.”*
* Isaiah, xvii. 13
Besides formal comparisons, the poetry of Ossian is embellished with many beautiful metaphors; such as that remarkably fine one applied to oi, “She was covered with the light of beauty; but he heart was the house of pride.” This mode of explession. which suppresses the mark of comparison, and substi. tutes a figured description in room of the object de scribed, is a great enlivener of style. It denotes that glow and rapidity of fancy, which, without pausing to form a regular simile, paints the object at one stroke. “Thou art to me the beam of the east, rising in a land unknown.”—“In peace, thou art the gale of spring ; in war, the mountain storm.”—“Pleasant be thy rest, O lovely beam soon hast thou set on our hills | The steps of thy departure were stately, like the moon or the blue trembling wave. But thou hast left us in darkness, first of the maids of Lutha s—Soon hast thou set, Malvina but thou risest, like the beam of the east, among the spirits of thy friends, where they sit in their stormy halls, the chambers of the thunder.” This is correct, and finely supported. But in the following instance, the metaphor, though very beautiful at the beginning, becomes imperfect before it closes, by being improperly mixed with the literal sense. “Trathal went forth with the stream of his people: but they met a rock; Fingal stood unmoved; broken, they rolled back from his side. Nor did they roll in safety; the spear of the king pursued their flight.”
The hyperbole is a figure which we might expect to find often employed by Ossian ; as the und.sciplined imagination of early ages generally prompts exaggeration, and carries its objects to excess; whereas longer experience, and farther progress in the arts of life, chasten men's ideas and expressions. Yet Ossian's hyperboles appear not, to me, either so frequent or so harsh as might at first have been looked for ; an advantage owing, no doubt, to the more cultivated state in which, as was before shown, poetry subsisted among the ancient Celtae, than among most other barbarous nations. One of the most exaggerated descriptions in the whole work, is what meets us at the beginning of Fingal, where the scout makes his report to Cuthullin of the landing of the foe. But this is so far from deserving censure, that it merits praise, as being on that occasion natural and proper. The scout arrives, trem. bling and full of fears; and it is well known that no passion disposes men to hyperbolize more than terror. It both annihilates themselves in their own apprehension, and magnifies every object which they view through the medium of a troubled imagination. Hence all those indistinct images of formidable greatness, the natural marks of a disturbed and confused mind, which occur in Moran's description of Swaran's appearance, and in his relation of the conference which they held together; not unlike the report which the affrighted Jewish spies made to their leader, of the land of Ca. naan. “The land through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature: and there saw we giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” With regard to personifications, I formerly observed that Ossian was sparing, and I accounted for his being so. Allegorical personages he has none; and their absence is not to be regretted. For the intermixture of those shadowy beings, which have not the support even of mythological or legendary belief, with human actors, seldom produces a good effect. The fiction becomes too visible and fantastic ; and overthrows that impression of reality, which the probable recital of hu. man actions is calculated to make upon the mind. In the serious and pathetic scenes of Ossian, especially, allegorical characters would have been as much out of place as in tragedy; serving only unseasonably to amuse the fancy, whilst they stopped the current and weakened the force of passion. With apostrophes, or addresses to persons absent or dead, which have been in all ages the language of pas. sion, our poet abounds; and they are among his highest beauties. Witness the apostrophe, in the first book of Fingal, to the maid of Inistore, whose lover had fallen in battle ; and that inimitably fine one of Cuthul. lin to Bragela, at the conclusion of the same book. He commands the harp to be struck in her praise; and the mention of Bragela's name immediately suggesting to him a crowd of tender ideas—“Dost thou raise thy fair face from the rocks,” he exclaims, “to find the sails of Cuthullin? The sea is rolling far distant, and its white foam shall deceive thee for my sails.” And now his imagination being wrought up to conceive her as, at that moment, really in this situation, he becomes afraid of the harm she may receive from the inclem. ency of the night; and with an enthusiasm happy and affecting, though beyond the cautious strain of modern poetry, “Retire,” he proceeds, “retire, for it is night, my love, and the dark winds sigh in thy hair. Retire to the hall of my feasts, and think of the times that are past: for I will not return until the storm of war has ceased. O, Connall speak of wars and arms, and send her from my mind; for lovely with her raven hair is the white-bosomed daughter of Sorglan.” This breathes all the native spirit of passion and tenderness. The addresses to the sun, to the moon, and to the evening star, must draw the attention of every reader of taste, as among the most splendid orname.) s of th’s collection. The beauties of each are too great and too obvious to need any particular comment. In one pov". sage only of the address to the moon, there appears some obscurity. “Whither dost thou retire from thy course when the darkness of thy countenance grows : Hast thou thy hall like Ossian 7 Dwellest thou in the shadow of grief? Have thy sisters fallen from heaven Are they who rejoiced with thee, at night, no more ? Yes, they have fallen, fair light ! and thou dost often retire to mourn.” We may be at a loss to comprehend, at first view, the ground of those speculations of Ossian concerning the moon: but when all the circumstances are attended to, they will appear to flow naturally from the present situation of his mind. A mind under the dominion of any strong passion, tinctures with its own disposition every object which it beholds. The old bard, with his heart bleeding for the loss of all his friends, is meditating on the different phases of the moon. Her waning and darkness present to his melancholy imagination the image of sorrow ; and presently the idea arises, and is indulged, that like himself, she retires to mourn over the loss of other moons, or of stars, whom he calls her sisters, and fancies to have once rejoiced with her at night, now fallen from heaven. Darkness suggested the idea of mourning, and mourning suggested nothing so naturally to Ossian as the death of beloved friends. An instance precisely similar, of this influence of passion, may be seen in a passage, which has always been admired, of Shakspeare's King Lear. The old man, on the point of distraction through the inhumanity of his daughters, sees Edgar appear, disguised like a beggar and a madman.